Ricky Burns retained his WBO super-featherweight title with a bizarre first-round stoppage victory against former champion Nicky Cook in Liverpool. He ensured he remains on course for those higher-profile showdowns on Saturday night but his win at the Echo Arena came in strange circumstances as he floored Cook three times, the first from a body-head right-handed double which seemed to injure the Englishman before further volleys put him down again and prompted his corner to retire their man.
Burns, 28, was 31-2 with eight early wins heading into the bout while Cook was 30-2 (16KOs). Burns is no power puncher but started with aggressive intent, flooring his man in the opening seconds. Cook got to his feet quickly as referee Phil Edwards counted but was clearly in discomfort and complaining about his back. After two more knockdowns and the towel being thrown in, he distraught Cook was taken out of the ring on a stretcher, and taken to hospital with a suspected spinal injury.
Afterwards a clearly disappointed Burns told Sky Sports HD 1: "I was just watching it back on the replay on the big screen. When I landed the first shot I didn't think it was a good body shot. I hope he's alright, being stretchered out and all that. But I'm a wee bit disappointed, all the training and for everybody who came down tonight wanting to see a good fight. Just a wee bit disappointed.
"I can't really say much about that (Cook's injury). Just really sorry to everybody that's travelled down here. Just wish I could have been out there and got more rounds in.
"We all know the fight I want. I would love to fight for that Ring magazine belt. Mzonke Fana is number one, I'm number two. Hopefully we can get that fight sorted."
Meanwhile promoter Frank Warren said: "Nicky was up to it physically - he passed all his medicals. He's been training for the fight, he trained for his last fight. It's a freak thing, I've never seen anything like it. Sometimes things happen. No-one wants it to happen. Now we've got to look to the future and we want to get some unification fights for him (Burns)."